There seems to be a general idea that anyone who picks up a pen and makes words with it is a writer. In the literal sense, yes they are. But in actuality? No, they’re just someone writing words. And whilst that is an important part of being defined as a writer, it’s only one part. Writing is available to pretty much everyone as a means of self expression, but only true writers wield it with flair and precision. In the rather grim words of Margaret Atwood, ‘everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger.’
Writing is an art form. Like any other artistic pursuit, it is a craft. It needs to be learned, practiced, slaved over, and perfected. No writer ever merely picks up a pen and like magic has a masterpiece, same as no painter picks up a brush and automatically creates something worthy of hanging in the Tate Britain Gallery, and no composer grabs a baton and instantly has a piece of music to rival Mozart.
Also, I’ve been told that you’re not a writer until someone reads your work, which personally I think is nonsense. Just look at Emily Dickinson. No-one read the hundreds of poems she wrote until after her death, but that didn’t change the fact she had still written them and was therefore still a writer.
A writer is a type of person, not just anyone who writes. For people dedicated to writing, it’s more than a hobby or means of self expression. It’s their life and soul, something they need like air. For some lucky enough it’s also a way to make a living. Writing can be a career, not just something to casually take up every now and then.
Next time someone tells you they’re a writer, indulge them. Keep them talking, and ask them how they see the world. When they answer, you’ll know whether they are telling the truth.